Union Democrat staff

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Office is investigating the deaths of twin brothers with muscular dystrophy who died suddenly Tuesday when their breathing ventilators failed, a tragedy that coincided with a power outage earlier in the day.

Ryan and Josh Hall, 22, died of respiratory distress at 4 p.m. at their home in the 5000 block of Rippon Road in Valley Springs, according to a Sheriff's Office statement.

Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Hewitt said the mother was home at the time and a caregiver showed up just as the breathing-support machines shut down.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the scene and administered CPR. The brothers, however, were pronounced dead at the scene by medical responders.

The brothers required respiratory support as a result of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare and usually fatal form of the degenerative disease.

The events leading up to the Hall brothers' deaths is under investigation.

Hewitt confirmed deputies are looking at, among other things, whether the deaths were related to a widespread power outage Tuesday afternoon.

The outage cut power to 18,000 homes in western Calaveras County, and 80,000 homes in eastern San Joaquin County, according to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

A neighbor, Scott Barron, confirmed the power went out at the Hall home.

The brothers were cared for full-time by their mother, Julie Hall, according to Barron.

They'd been ill for years but still managed to graduate from Calaveras High School in 2010.

School staff Wednesday were saddened by the deaths.

"They were very sweet young men and I'm really going to miss them," said school district nurse Belinda Brager.

Robert Calavan, a special-education paraeducator, worked closely with the Halls as their aide for four years.

Calavan said they were "hard to miss" around campus due, in part, to the fact they looked exactly alike.

They even finished each others' sentences.

"They were very social, very likeable," he said.

Calavan said the Halls were actually fairly independent, despite their disabilities. They operated power wheelchairs and drove themselves around school.

"As students they were really good, very motivated," he said, noting they didn't take special education classes but rather a normal academic load.

He recalled them as "uncomplaining and brave."

Calavan said the Hall brothers' ability to breathe declined over the past year and a half, at which time they became dependant on the ventilators.

He maintained contact with them after they graduated from high school in 2010 and would cook for them.

"They really liked barbecue and smoked meat," he said. "I was about to cook for them this coming weekend. They would be turning 23 on Sunday."

Barron, who lives a few houses down from the Halls, has identical twins and "feels for the mom."

"She was the caregiver of the home," he said. "I felt bad for her right away, the police will have to clear her. It's a shame, these two young guys should have had a backup deal working with the respirators."